When I delivered my first daughter Gabriella, I wanted nothing more than a peaceful beginning to her life. I see now that I put my trust in the wrong person, (a money hungry OB) when I should have put the trust in myself. I should have, could have and would have done thing so differently if I had done just that. Trust the process. Trust my body. Trust my intuition.
When you know better, you do better.
The whole time I was trying to conceive and pregnant with our second baby, I engorged myself on midwifery books, spent hours of research, watching documentaries, studying Ina May Gaskin (the legendary midwife)and reading hundreds of birth stories. From this amount of research, It is my belief that the best outcomes often come with zero medical interventions are introduced, from beginning to end. I knew I wanted my second daughter to come into a world free of anything foreign and all peaceful. I accomplished exactly that.
I initially wanted a home birth and looked for solutions that would work for us. My husband’s job change and a move from Colorado, back to the Bay Area, changed all of that when I was 28 weeks pregnant. I called the Bay Area Home Birth Midwives and all were booked until April. Appearantly, there are a few in the area and the midwives book up quickly. My husband and I chose a hospital because it was the best of both worlds. Not just any hospital though, it had to be “baby friendly”. My insurance covered everything, I got to use a midwife, they had a birthing tub and the hospital had very relaxed protocols. I really wanted to deliver at Alta Bates since they have the best reviews and come highly rated in California. It was nice that they are one of the few hospitals that have a good reputation for natural birthing–which it IS in Berkeley…so no wonder ;-) My midwife team and the hospital were very supportive of natural birth, delayed cord clamping, did not freak out at our request of no immunizations and respected our wishes for us to keep my placenta for encapsulation. No other hospital has midwife privileges in our area. I had a picture perfect pregnancy, low risk and everything went to plan. I took my vitamins, ate well, drank lots of water and saw my midwife on schedule. I was 41.5 weeks when I delivered our second daughter, all natural.
This is our birth story.
Saturday February 16th, 2013
This day was just like all the other days, in the final days of my pregnancy. I was already nearly 2 weeks over due and everyday was getting harder and harder. The week prior I did a Non Stress Test, sonograms and signed a waiver against any inductions. My midwife was getting concerned with the size of my baby, but since I already heard that song and dance with my first birth- I did not pay too much attention to the “concern””. My husband takes our 3 1/2 year old daughter to their weekly Daddy/daughter swim class on Saturday mornings. I wake up that morning and am swollen beyond belief, my hands and feet look like cased sausages and I’m experiencing numbness in my arms and hands. Since Ella was gone, I actually got to take a shower uninterrupted. (what a treat!) I took a shower that morning and just let the water run over my head. I closed my eyes and visualized my baby looking at a calendar and choosing a birthday. I imagined my baby saying with great joy that it was the best day she could have picked to be born. I imagined my body, getting ready, baby getting lower in my pelvis and then a flashing green light. “I will not be pregnant for much longer”, I told myself. I did my monthly “veet treatment” on my bikini area, shaved my legs,shaved my arms, tweezed my eyebrows (who knows how long it would before I could do all that again!) and got myself all ready. I started making a mental list of things to remember to pack in the car and putting random items by the front door. I was not going to be pregnant for much longer, I repeatedly told myself. It would be close. And it was. I took a nap and dreamed of my perfect birth. Dreams do come do.
My contractions started that evening/night around 3pm, rather infrequent. Since this was my first time actually going into labor, I wasn’t sure of what these sensations were. (I was induced with my first daughter for non medical reasons) I felt like a lightening bolt was going through my uterus and my lower back really started to hurt. The braxton hicks were getting stronger, longer and more frequent. I started tweeting to my fellow doulas about how I was feeling. All replied with “sounds like early/slow labor”. I ate a light dinner, appetite not too big, like it normally was. I went to bed at 9:30 pm, with 2-4 contractions an hour. I wanted to make sure this was it, so I took 2 tablespoons of castor oil, ate some ice cream, drank some water and went to sleep. That night I woke up to a few strong contractions but they were not too terribly bad so I went back to bed.
Sunday February 17th, 2013 5:10 am
I was laying in bed. My water broke after a very strong, long contraction. I felt a pop sensation and at first thought, “What did Ireland just do?” Then I felt a huge gush of water. It got all over our bed and myself. I woke up my husband, who literally jumped out of bed, turned on every light in the room. I laid there, still trying to fully wake up. He got in to the shower then loaded up the SUV while I started calling/texting family. I called Alta Bates Labor and Delivery and they told me to come in right away.
A few strong contractions occurred while my husband was in the shower and then it finally hit me. I was in labor. This was it! I went to the bathroom and had a tiny bit of bloody show. I could smell the infamous “smell of labor”. That confirmed it for me, again, that this was it.
I was scared, happy and sad all at the same time. This was the moment I had been waiting for. My baby girl was on her way!
6 am: My husband got Gabriella, our three year old daughter, from her bed and put her in the car. We headed to my aunts home, about 35 minutes North, to drop off Ella. I labored the whole way, while my delirious preschooler is in the back seat, cracking jokes, laughing at herself, asking questions and helping me keep my mind off the contractions. They were getting stronger and stronger, lasting longer and longer. 2-3 mins apart. I’m texting my Mom who is in Texas working as a Postpartum Doula/Night Nurse; she unfortunately could not make it to California for my birth. I really wanted her there. My Mom is coaching me via text, she is with my older brother as they drive from Texas to Atlanta. Reading her words were very comforting to me. She knew exactly what I needed to read. We drop off my daughter at my aunts home then race to Berkeley, Alta Bates… this is getting real.
7am: We get to Alta Bates Medical Center (Berkeley, CA) and of course, no parking. If you know anything about Alta Bates, they have a very small parking garage and tiny parking spaces that are for mini coopers’ only. We had to drive up to the 5th floor (which took forever) to find a parking space big enough for our SUV. Of course, the parking garage elevator took 7 minutes (I counted) I walked into the hospital and took the elevator up to the 3rd floor. I had two contractions in the hospital elevator, full of nurses.
I get checked in to triage, monitored and checked, I am 4cm. I labor in the triage bed and had a few more contractions while the triage nurses phoned my midwife. My midwife, Jeri is not on call that weekend so Lindy comes in. (They are partners) I see Lindy and immediately, I felt a sense of calm. Lindy and my Mom had a very special bond; Lindy delivered my Moms surrogates. They go waaay back, like 20 something years back. My labor and delivery nurse would be Heather. A traveling nurse from Houston, Texas. (I got a little bit of Texas at my birth, even with my Mom not being there!) She was tall with a strong athletic build. She had a very firm demeanor with me, not cozy, compassionate or soft… more like, down to business, “get it done”. My midwives and her did not seem to mesh well as Heather wasn’t too confident in this whole natural birthing thing… I proved her wrong. Our personalities could not have been more opposite. She was very pro cesarean sections where as I am against them, unless severely medically needed.
8am: I get into my delivery room; it has all the normal cold hospital room feeling. I turned it into my sacred space. I opened a bottle of lavender oil essential oils. The room smells like a spa. Lindy, my midwife, rubs the lavender oil on my pressure points. Lights are low, blinds are closed, the room is warm, I make it my own. I feel safe. I feel calm. My labor/delivery nurse Heather, turns on a sound machine that was playing the sounds of the ocean. She coaches me and tells me that each contraction is like a wave, a wave that leads to me to shore, where I get to meet my baby. “Ride the wave..” I am comfortable and happy, despite being in labor. I work through each contraction. Heather and Lindy (my midwife) trade off on coaching me. Lindy’s voice is like silk to my ears. Every time I got a contraction, Lindy would push my chakra on my forehead and encourage me to take a breath. “Relax your face, relax your shoulders, relax your chest, relax your stomach,relax your uterus, relax your thighs/ legs, relax your ankles, relax your toes. Allow your body to open, your pelvis to open and welcome your baby, getting lower and lower.” For every time she said “relax”, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath. Lindy would push on each pressure point on my body, taking the pain away. Before I knew it, the contraction was over. “This is not pain, it is just a sensation that requires my immediate attention. My body is doing it’s job” I read that in one of my Ina May books and decided it would be my birth mantra. I repeatedly told myself those encouraging words, over and over. I was getting emotional, crying for reasons I honestly cannot remember. Perhaps it was a mix of disbelief and excitement mixed with pain, or hormones. I was getting the birth I dreamed of. I was 5cm.
9am: After trying a few labor positions, all of which did not feel good to me; Lindy recommends I get into the birthing tub to help me relax and open up. “Yes! Please!” I say. She pads the bottom of the tub with pillows and while the tub fills up with warm water, she places warm towels over my naked body. Lindy pens the bottle of lavender oil and places it beside me to smell. I cannot tell you how good this felt. Lindy is still with me, reminding me to breathe and giving me sips of cranberry juice in between contractions. My husband sprays warm water over my body and I continue to labor with Lindy along with my husband guiding me through every contraction. I open my eyes and Jeri, my midwife is there. She made it! I have both midwives there with me, encouraging me to relax, surrender and release.
10am: I get out of the tub and I am now 8, almost 9cm. At this point, I’m going through transition. I am laying on my left side with pillows all around me. After trying more labor positions, the soft bed with tons of pillows, on my left side, in a up right position, feels the best to me. My nurse Heather is with me, Lindy and Jeri offer support and encouragement . My husband is there with me, encouraging me to stay focused. I am going through transition and pretty much losing it. All while my nurse Heather decides this is the perfect moment to try to start an IV block. She tries 4 different times to find a good vein and she isn’t having much luck. “Get the F_ away from me right now…” I whisper in the middle of a strong contraction, and she finally gives up. I am getting pretty firm for my desire to not be pregnant and not be in pain any longer. The pain is getting more intense. Each minute feels like an hour and I am getting quite inpatient. (I’m really proud of myself for not screaming. I was vocal but not in a unproductive way- just lots of Oh’s and ohm’s in a deep breathy voice) My husband and nurse, Heather encourage me to keep going. I want to give up and get pain medication but any of that is too late. My husband is leaning over the bed, hugging me, encouraging me, speaking into my ear the words I need to hear. “You got this, you are almost done”. I am almost done. I am doing this. I go inside myself and go in and out of sleep; or what feels like sleep.I can hear everyone in the room, talking. My husbands face is so calming to me. I feel so trusting of him. He won’t let me give up. Every time I’d open my eyes, I would see different people around me. Nurses, doctors, NICU nurses…the normal people that come racing in at the last of each hospital birth. I am not bothered by there presence. I close my eyes again, focus, breathe, surrender and release. My midwife, Jeri calls in a OBGYN to be in the labor room just in case the baby is as big as they thought, there was a concern for shoulder dystocia. The OB helps me through contractions and encourages me, waiting to see if she will be needed. I have no idea who this OB was but my memories of her are very pleasant. She was so gentile and warm. She was beautiful, I remember. I even think I told her that she had the most beautiful skin, like a Geisha. (For an OB, I was very impressed with her supportive nature.)
11am: I can feel my baby get lower and lower. I feel a mix of pressure and the feeling of needing to pee. My midwives have been putting jojoba oil and doing little passages on my perineum to prepare it to stretch, all morning. I know the end is near. I keep remembering all the things I read in the many childbirth books I read. I knew I was getting close to the end, from how I felt. I keep looking at the clock. “How much longer?”, I keep asking everyone in the room. Lindy, my midwife, leaves for another delivery and lets Jeri take over for both labor support and delivery. My contractions are 2 minutes apart and rapidly gaining momentum. I want to push. Jeri checks me and I am 10cm. I keep going in and out of consciousness, in between each push. I start pushing at 11:45(ish). I continued to push and push and rest in between. “Jessica, feel your daughter’s head, she is crowning!” Jeri said with excitement. I reached down and felt my daughter’s head. It was slimy, warm and soft. Right then, I feel the ring of fire, at first I am scared of it; then I want to push against it. Jeri continues to squirt warm jojoba oil on my perineum and massage me open. The OB is not needed after all and I will be able to birth unassisted. I am curled around my husband and nurse Heather, laying on my right side now and pushing with everything I have. “Jessica, with your next contraction, I want you to reach down and grab your baby, she is right there waiting for you.” My midwife, Jeri encourages me. I can do this! I let go of my nurse and husband, sit up, give a gentile push, reach down, grab my daughter and place her on my stomach. (Just like Kourtney Kardashian did in her birth videos) Feeling my baby exit my body, into my own hands, feels absolutely electric! Baby girl’s umbilical cord is very short so she cannot make it to my chest. I rub her back and she lets out the perfect cry. I am instantly at peace. Relief. I did it. “I F*CKING DID IT!!!!!!!!”
Within an instant my heart grew, my life changed and my soul was renewed.
On February 17th, 2013, Ireland Rose was born at 12:18 pm, weighing a healthy 8 pounds, 9 ounces and was 20 inches long. I stare in complete awe of her beauty. She is absolutely perfect. I am proud of myself, I cannot believe I did it! All natural, no IV, no drugs, no interventions. Just like we wanted.
After experiencing a miscarriage and months and months of trying to conceive; My prayers were answered. My birth could not have been more perfect.(I highly recommend doing warm oil.) Ireland stares at me with such intensity, laying on me skin-to-skin, I know she came back to me. The baby I lost in 2011 came back to me. I am forever thankful and at peace.
My postpartum experience was also awesome. I laid with Ireland on my bare chest for two hours in the labor room, while our PP room was getting ready for us. We waited 30+ minutes after birth before cutting the umbilical cord. We did not cut until after the placenta was released. No shots were given to either of us and Ireland did not have any antibiotics put in her eyes. I did endless amounts of research on all typical hospital protocols and based on my health and our situation, decided that Hep B, Vitamin K vaccines and goop in my baby’s eyes was not needed. (not to mention, dangerous!) My labor and delivery nurse, Heather, did throw out a few harsh words of our choices and honestly, it went in one ear and out the other. (A lot of threats “You know Ive seen a lot of dead babies…”) I was too high on oxytocin to hear or comprehend anything negative. I did my research. I educated myself. Despite Heather’s negative demeanor around our birthing plan and postpartum choices, she was a huge help to me at certain times. She did help me focus, she did help me with positioning and pushing, she helped me take a shower after birth. At that moment, Heather helped me get my cozy pajamas on and encouraged me to not put on lotion after my shower as it would interfere with my scent/hormones that the baby needs. We took Ireland back from Daddy, took her out of all those blankets, placed her on breast where she nursed for an hour. It was serious heaven. She was so sweet and beautiful.
Anna, “the placenta lady” came a few hours after my birth to pick up my placenta and then came back before I left the hospital (48 hours later) to deliver my pills. I took 3 pills at the hospital, right away. I decided to encapsulate my placenta due to all the benefits (no PPD, instant milk supply, faster postpartum healing, lots of energy, replenish vitamins lost in labor, balance hormones…) I can tell you, I felt amazing after Ireland’s delivery. I still feel amazing. I was up walking around with no problem. The pain only lasted a night and a few Motrin. Compared to Ella’s (medicated) birth, that horrible stage 4 episiotomy, I felt like I had been hit with by a truck at least nineteen times! My family has seen the difference this time too. I have far more energy this time. I’m so in love! I feel amazing!
After we get settled into my postpartum room, my husband went to Whole Foods Market and came back with a bag full of food. We were both so hungry. He had been up since 5am with no food and by this time it was 5pm. He was too afraid to leave me during labor, since everything happened so fast. We sat on the bed together, having a feast: eating turkey and avocado sandwiches, fruit salad, split pea soup, pizza and cheesecake while drinking fruit/veggie smoothies. We laughed about the day, texted everyone pictures of Ireland, updated our facebook accounts, took calls from excited family members and connected with our newest blessing. It was just us, in that moment. Such a special moment, memory we shared.
I am very happy with my birth. Everything went according to plan and my birth plan was respected. I feel so bonded with Ireland, instantly. I now have experienced a medicated birth and a natural birth. Based on both situations and how easier it was the second time, I can say natural birthing is the way to go. For the record, I did not have a natural birth so that I could go around town with my head held higher, or have a conversation piece; I delivered our baby naturally because I felt it is what was best for my baby and body. Looking back, I would have it no other way. I feel so empowered. My birth effected me in the very best way. I want to give this birth to other Moms so I plan to become a Childbirth Educator in the next year.
I really wanted my Mom and my family/friends present when I had Ireland. I thought I wanted a room full of “support” this time. This delivery was just my husband and I. We are so thankful it was just us. We shared something so special together, that day when Ireland was born. It was such an awesome day!
I encourage other Moms reading my birth story to believe in yourself. Your body knows how to birth. Trust your body. You too, can have the birth of your dreams…whatever that may be.